My father was alive for fifteen years of my life. For a while he was huge, enormous presence in my life, the overarching umbrella of everything, but then he was gone. The time he was alive is now less than the time my younger son has been alive. Fifteen years. I can barely remember when my younger son was fifteen years old, and that was only seven years ago. Fifteen years: less time than I've worked at my college. Fifteen years: less time than I was married the first time.
I had had father around for just a blip, a bleep, and then he was gone.
For a while after he died, I would dream of him, hear his voice, breath in the smell of his pipe. Much of how I lived after he died was a rebellion of how he'd made me live when he was alive. He had rules, ideas, judgments, laws that we had to follow or else endure the consequences. When he was gone, we squeezed out from under his iron fist and really screwed up. But what did we know? We just had to give it a go, trying to find our own way, even though it wasn't clear what to do next.
But even though he was gone, I felt him, heard him, reacted in some ways with him in mind. He became less of a person but more of a map I could follow if I so chose. He was like a painting on a wall, immovable, stuck in all his ways because he couldn't change them now.
He only had 15 years to be a father, and now that I am older than he was when he died, I can have compassion for this young man who had no siblings growing up, who had only one parent for many years. This was a man unsuited for parenthood--at least initially--because he'd had so little time in a family. He wanted order because he came out of chaos. He wanted it the way he wanted it because it had never been like that before.
And then he died at 43, with--like Hamlet's father--no reckoning made. He left us to figure it out, and I know I have spent the last thirty-three years with the map of my father on the wall, wondering how to get anywhere.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org